Monday, July 9, 2012

Woke Up This Mornin'; Got Myself a Bun...Expat Living in Hot Places

06 07 2012

Not Your Usual Filling Station
Canada was last in Libya earlier this year when our Prime Minister
risked Canadian lives and $300 million defending Suncor's Oil Leases there.
Khaddafi threatened to cancel them you see and our
King Stephen will not fail his good American Oil friends.
In all of Hammamet Marina we have found three American boats and one other Canadian one.  A few Brits drift in and out but their stays are fleeting.  As a result we on Meredith find ourselves forming a good part of the extant expat club here.

All five of us are here trying to book some non Schengen time so we can revisit Europe without Visa hassles.  All five of us are also using the stay here to reset our VAT clocks so Europe will not attempt to charge us 20% VAT on our boats.  All five of us are gray haried and cheap and the cost of a month stay at Hammamet is the same as the cost of an eleven day stay, more or less.

So here we sit in the withering heat.  Every fan on every boat is full on twenty four hours a day.  Visiting another boat requires a minimum 15 minute wait after knocking on the hull: the occupants must get dressed before they can come out to chat.

Except when essential all of us are naked.  Pulling shorts and shirt  onto limbs friction filled from sweath and over arthritic joints that just do not move like they used to requrires time.   Usually the inside people just yell "Getting dressed"  and take as long as they need.

We all know what they were doing: nothing.  It is too hot for sex, cooking or board games.  Our brains are sufficiently swollen that even television taxes the logic systems.  Stupor reigns.
Or this rather slow witted beast.
This guy I would have for lunch and
ride the other guy home

If you were buying a camel which
would you choose: this smart cool model
Leaving the boat can be excruciating.  Tunisia is a muslem nation and out of courtesy most boater women have been wearing longer skirts and long sleeves, men long pants.  Buses do not have airco.  Nor do taxis, retail stores or most hotels.  This week God has held his breath and the lack of breeze is debilitating.

To feed ourselves means relying on the local grocery, a poorly stocked den of germ laden thieves or, worse, taking the bus to one of the small villages between the marina and Hammamet town.  The ride on a normally crowded, hot, dusty bus at least provides breeze when the bus is moving.  Think of a sauna with a fan.  It is oddly cooling.

Whenever we must slow, eg for a police stop which happens twice on the five miles from Yassmine Hammamet where we have the boat and Hammamet Centre Ville, the sauna fan quits and the heat settles on riders like hot tar.  Thick enough to cut and hot enough to sear flesh the atmosphere does not support respiration.

Half an hour of this and you are in town or at a little collection of open air shops selling your daily needs: bread, cheese, fruit, vegetables, chicken. Usually your choice is chicken or no meat however one day the butcher was selling beef.  We knew this because he hung the heat in front of his shop to alert his customers to the fact.  The cow was slaughtered that morning and was sold "Tunisian Style": you hang the side of beef and start cutting.  First person in gets one end.  Next person's meat is cut from where ever the butcher stopped cutting for the first customer.  So it goes until the carcass is disposed of.

No cuts of meat here.  Your choice is "two centimetres or three"?

On day two the heat is moved to a small cooler beside the door so customers know the carcass is no longer "fresh".  It is now cooled, which does not mean what you think.  The only thing cooled around here is the coca and that is luke warm at best.

Still we have learned.  At the village we normally attend for basic sustenance and hardware the greengrocers are several in number and line a street from the top of a hill to a traffic circle.  The stores at the top of the hill have the best produce and higher prices. You often see produce being unloaded at the very top store.

As you move down the hill towards the traffic circle the quality and price of the offerings declines with your altitude.  You would buy nothing "lower" than the middle of the hill.  Except for the very bottom, just at the traffic circle where the local farmers sometimes park their pickup trucks and sell to passersby whatever was not unloaded at the top of the hill.  There are some considerable bargains to be found here.  Also it is closer to the bus stop so carrying that 3 kilo cantaloupe (and that is just a medium one) back to the buse is much easier.

The village boulangerie is midhill and if you time your arrival there you get the bread so warm it is still warm two hours later.  Of course nothing cools in this unbelievable heat.  Usually every second hour on the hour.

By the time you have bused back to Yassmine and walked to the boat you have just spent an excruciating two to three hours just getting lunch fixings.

Having fed yourself, and except for your swim, you are now done for the day.

Time for the afternoon nap.

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